Abergavenny Rotary Club have lent their support to the people of Ukraine by collaborating with a Polish rotary club helping Ukrainian refugees.

Jaroslaw Rotary is the nearest Polish rotary club to Ukraine, with the town situated approximately 40 km from the Polish/Ukrainian border.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over a month ago, Jaroslaw Rotary have been deeply engaged in helping war-zone refugees with club members giving away food and water on the border everyday to Ukrainians fleeing the country, and offering up housing and accommodation to families with children.

Like many rotary clubs around the world, Abergavenny Rotary Club have been quick to offer support to the people of Ukraine with club president Charles Harper writing a letter of support to all 62 rotary clubs in Ukraine.

Using the global Rotary Finder app, Abergavenny Rotary were also able to locate Jaroslaw Rotary and reach out offering their assistance with donations and aid.

With many clubs around world also doing the same, Jaroslaw Rotary is now taking part in co-ordinating material help in the border area, providing food, clothing and medical aid which has been collected and donated from their club as well as others from around the world.

Abergavenny Rotary Club recently held a collection day for the people of Ukraine in Abergavenny Market and combined with a JustGiving page set up to rasie funds the club has managed to raise over £2,000 which will go directly to rotarians helping directly on the ground in Poland.

Speaking to the Chronicle, Abergavenny Rotary club secretary Robert Parker said: “Like everyone we have been devastated to see the horror that is unfolding in Ukraine and as rotarians have been desperate to provide support to the people of Ukraine. Having written to all 62 clubs in Ukraine and began raising money for donations we then sought out the nearest rotary club to Ukraine in neighbouring Poland. With the conflict ongoing in Ukraine, it was deemed far too dangerous to send any donations or aid to clubs in Ukraine so we instead found the nearest club to the Ukrainian border, Jaroslaw Rotary, and have been working with them to provide support and assistance.”

Just days after Russia began the conflict in Ukraine, Abergavenny Rotary president Charles Harper wrote a letter on February 28 addressed to all 62 rotary clubs in Ukraine.

In his letter, Mr Harper wrote: “On behalf of the 31 members of the Rotary Club of Abergavenny in Wales, United Kingdom we send our greetings to all members of your Rotary Club in Ukraine. The invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation is a tragic and sad time for the people of Ukraine and the world. Today we stand with the President Volodymyr Zelensky and all of Ukraine’s people as they bravely fight for their future. Our thoughts are with our fellow Rotary members and all the peoples of Ukraine.”

Despite the ongoing atrocities occurring in Ukraine, the club has been overwhelmed to receive several responses from rotary clubs including those from Odessa and the capital Kyiv – cities that have been heavily targeted by Russian military.

Responding to Charles Harper’s original letter, Nataliya Popel, Secretary and President Elect of RC Odessa International wrote: “Thank you for your all your kind words, help and support! Our city Odessa was one of the city’s that were well equipped so our brave warriors are fighting off all the attacks, and our city is almost unharmed.

“Most of the work of our RC Odessa International is helping and hosting refugees from other Ukrainian cities that suffered most, supporting mothers with children with special needs and elderly who are living in Odessa, and supporting students of Odessa Music Academy.

“Thank you again Wales and our Rotary family for helping in so many ways and standing us with us during these horrible times.”

The response from Odessa was made even more poignant by the fact Abergavenny Rotary club member Lionel Elton had family that fled Ukraine from the port of Odessa at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Lionel’s maternal grandparents were from Romania and moved to Odessa in 1904 with Lionel’s mother but were forced to flee like many Ukrainians are today, when a pogrom against Jews took place in 1905. Lionel’s mother and her family fled by boat and eventually ended up in Cardiff where Lionel’s parents met and married before Lionel was born in Grangetown in 1933.

Following Abergavenny Rotary Club’s donations to Jaroslaw Rotary, a spokesperson for the Polish rotary club, Piotr Balicki wrote to the club saying: “I want to say a big thank you to everyone from Abergavenny Rotary Club for donating money to our cause. We are very busy unloading packs of materials and aids from trucks and lorries, and arranging transport so everything can be sent on to the border and into Ukraine. We have been inundated with material aid from countries including Germany, France and the UK, and greatly appreciate all your support.”

Abergavenny Rotary Club secretary Robert Parker said: “We would like to say a huge thank you to all the people of Abergavenny for their kind donations and support. We hope to be heavily involved with Jaroslaw Rotary for months ahead and years to come.”